A day after he went on a bit of a rant in a press interaction over the Indian U-17 team being hyped up, senior football team head coach Stephen Constantine has issued an apology for his comments on Monday.
Asked if he felt India U-17 team goalkepeer Dheeraj Singh’s career was not handled properly (by his managers) after his return from a trial at Scottish club Motherwell, Constantine had said, “I have nothing to do with the looking after of that boy. That is not my job.” Soon after, he spoke about how the team’s results didn’t justify they are receiving in the media.
“I just wanted to apologise to everyone for my recent comments on the U17s,” tweeted Constantine. “I am here in India for the best part of 7 years and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone. I have the greatest respect for the AIFF and football in India and always give them my 100%.”
Constantine’s comments in the press conference, though not targeted at the AIFF, made it clear that it was the hype of the U-17 team that stood out more than their actual achievement on the field. Constantine stated that players from the Indian team who played the U-17 World Cup at home will not be given any preference in the senior national camp for the South Asian Football Federation Championships.
“There was a lot of hype in the U-17 team’s performance,” he had said. “They did not win any game in the U-17 World Cup and I am not quite sure what the hype was about. The team did OK. But I never knew why we are making it such a big deal. In the first place, the team did not qualify in the U-17 World Cup, (but played as) India hosted the tournament. Too much was made out of it.”
“Did the U-17 team pull up any trees? They lost all the games. It is you guys (the media) that make it (the team) big. The future and the cream of Indian football played in the I-League and came last,” he said sarcastically.
Asked whether the AIFF was to be blamed for that, he said, “It is not a question of blaming the AIFF. That is how it is.”
Despite the coach’s apology on Monday, the first reaction from the federation came in the form of a press release “clarifying” Constantine’s comments. Soon after the press conference, the AIFF issued a media release on Sunday, stating that Constantine’s quotes were misinterpreted by the media.
“The question was put to me with regards to the goalkeeper Dheeraj who has not played for the last six months due to no fault of his own,” Constantine was quoted as saying by the AIFF. “I would like to utilise this opportunity to state that my comments were misinterpreted and now I wish to put the record straight.”
“I believe that we all have a responsibility to help these young players progress and develop after what they have experienced from the World Cup and the I-League. The result in the World Cup and I-League is irrelevant. Although they finished last in the league, the objective was to give the upcoming Indian players more game time and to play regularly in competitive games week in and week out,” he stated.
The Englishman has selected Prabsukhan Gill, Suresh Wangjam, Rahim Ali and Rahul KP for the SAFF camp. The four are currently part of the Indian Arrows side involved in a five-team tournament in Spain.
You can read the rest of what Constantine said during the press conference here.
(With PTI inputs)